Cuffay's reply at 1848 trial

The Times, 21 August 1848
Cuffay reply to sentence

The Times, 2 October 1848 p. 6.
Fay.–It must be evident to every body that Powell [one of the spies] was committing perjury in all he stated. It is Useless to say any more.

Dowling.–I only desire to repel the charge that was made against me of acting with duplicity towards the Chartists when I joined them. It is not true. I never concealed my real opinions, and had no desire to use the Chartists for my own purposes, as was stated by the Attorney-General. I was not influenced by any desire for martyrdom or notoriety, and I only sought the god of my country, and was actuated by a feeling of patriotism. Tyrants may declare patriotism to be felony, but they cannot make if felony. I have nothing more to say.

Lacey then addressed the Court. He said,–Although I certainly approved of the six points of the Charter, I never had the slightest intention to catty ehm out by violence, and it is well known I frequently expressed the opinion that the Charter would not have any good results unless it was accompanied by other social and moral reforms.

Cuffay then addressed the Court with great vehemence. He said,–I say you have no right to sentence me. Although the trial has lasted a long time. It has not been a fair trial, and my request to have a fair trial – to be tried by my equals – has not been complied with. Everything has been done to raise a prejudice against me, and the press of this country – and I believe of other countries too – has done all in its power to smother me with ridicule. I ask no pity. I ask no mercy.

Fay in violent tone, and striking the front of the dock, No more do I.

Cuffey told his fellow prisoner to be quiet, he would only increase his troubles by violence. he then proceeded–I expected to be convicted, and I didn't think anything else; but I don't want to be pitied. No, I pity the Government, and I pity the Attorney-General for convicting me by means of such base characters. The Attorney General ought to be called the Spy-General. and using such men is a disgrace to the Government, but they only exist by such means. I am quite innocent, my locality never sent any delegates at all and I had nothing to do with the 'luminaries.' I have aright to complain of the other spy Davis being kept back till the last moment, and he had read the evidence of the miscreant with so many aliases. As to my having a loaded pistol, I only carried it for my own protection, as my life had been threatened. This, however, it what I have always expected, I always thought it would come to something like this. I am not anxious for martyrdom, but after what I have endured this week, I feel that I could bear any punishment proudly, even to the scaffold. This new act of Parliament is disgraceful, and I am proud to be the first victim of it after the glorious Mitchel. Every good act was set aside in Parliament–everything that was likely to do any good to the working classes was either thrown out or set aside, but a measure to restrain their liberties could be passed in a few hours. I have nothing more to say.

...
When the sentence was pronounced, Fay exclaimed in a loud voice, "This is the baptism of felony in England," and he then looked up to the gallery, and called, "Good bye, my flowers; good bye, fellow-countrymen." The other prisoners made no observation.


The Northern Star 7th October, 1848

The conduct of Cuffay throughout his trial was that of a man. A somewhat singular appearance, certain eccentricities of manner, and a habit of unregulated speech, afforded an opportunity to the 'suckmug' reporters, unprincipled editors, and buffoons of the press to make him the subject of their ridicule. The 'fast men' of the press ... did their best to smother their victim beneath the weight of their heavy wit. In a great measure, Cuffay owes his destruction to the Press gang. But his manly and admirable conduct on his trial affords his enemies no opportunity either to sneer at or abuse him. His protest from first to last against the mockery of being tried a by a jury animated by class-resentments and party-hatred showed him to be a much better respecter of the constitution than either the Attorney General or the Judges on the bench. Cuffay's last words should be treasured up by the people.

Notes

In his trial speech Cuffay links Chartism with the Irish struggle for independence pointing to his admiration for the Irish leader John Mitchel the man the Government desperately wanted to execute and the first target of its Treason Felony Act

This new act of Parliament is disgraceful, and I am proud to be the first victim of it after the glorious Mitchel. Every good act was set aside in Parliament–everything that was likely to do any good to the working classes was either thrown out or set aside, but a measure to restrain their liberties could be passed in a few hours. 

The Treason Felony Act 1848 (11 & 12 Vict. c. 12) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Despite recent moves to remove it the Act is still in force. It was last used in Australia in 1916 to try the Sydney Twelve, all members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), who were framed for their relentless and successful opposition to conscription during World War I.